As a parent, my deepest wish is that my children will have it better than I had. In the U.S., we call this the American Dream. But, as I've learned, there's nothing uniquely American about it.
Over the past several years, I've been talking to parents in India, Mexico, South Africa, Chile and Israel - and I've learned two important things. One, all of these parents have the same hopes and dreams for their children that we in the U.S. do. And two, these parents believe, correctly, that education will help their kids get where they want them to be.
Now more than ever, a quality education -- especially a college degree -- can help determine a child's lot in life. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), people with bachelor's degrees can expect to earn 50 percent more than those with high-school diplomas. And while a college degree might not be right for all children, the skills that will get you into college certainly are.
Wanting to give underserved students the sort of education that leads to better opportunities in life, Dave Levin and I founded the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) 20 years ago. We started in Houston, with a single class of fifth-graders, but the program has since grown into a national network of 141 public schools serving more than 50,000 kids. Our alumni are graduating from college at four to five times the rate of their socio-economic peers. Educators around the world are now adopting the KIPP model, through our One World Network of Schools initiative.
Our challenge is to figure out what sort of educational system will help students everywhere get into college. No one has cracked this nut yet. But through my work I've seen how we might be able to.
Take the 3-2-1 School in Mumbai's Crawford Fish Market slums, for example. It's a One World Network school founded by Gaurav Singh, an alumnus of Teach for India. Gaurav is passionate and dedicated, with a clear vision of where he wants his students to go. The school is bursting with great teachers who offer rigorous research-based instruction and create a culture of high expectations, with a strong focus on student independence and joy. As a result, the school is in great demand. Despite enrolling more than four times the number of students of other primary schools in the area, it still has students on its waiting list.
When I look at successful institutions like the 3-2-1 School, I see they have three factors in common. First, there is generous investment in talented teachers. Great teaching is the single most influential factor in a child's education, and the best school programmes recognize that. They go out and win the marketing war to get the best teaching candidates into their classrooms, then they develop the teachers' skills and keep them on staff for the long term.
Secondly, the best schools have a framework of bottom-up change. By this I mean letting solutions bubble up from within the educational community, instead of having one-size-fits-all policies imposed from above. This might mean nurturing charter schools or public-private partnerships, as in the case of Mumbai's 3-2-1 School, and giving all public schools -- traditional and charter -- the freedom to innovate.
Finally, rather than treating college as separate from primary and secondary education, successful systems see them as different stops on the same journey. At the 3-2-1 School, students know from the day they walk through the door that they will be attending university, and their entire educational experience is structured to help them get there.
These three things are clear and proven to have an impact in communities around the world. They aren't the whole solution, of course, but can help bring us closer to the day when all children, everywhere, will succeed in school and in life.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, in recognition of the latter's Social Entrepreneurs Class of 2014. For more than a decade, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship has selected leading models of social innovation from around the world. Follow the Schwab Foundation on Twitter at @schwabfound or nominate a Social Entrepreneur here. To see all the post in the series, click here.
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